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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

To the Power of Three

**** To the Power of Three by Laura Lippman. Suspense.

Some time ago, on Tod Goldberg's blog, there were a whole bunch of mystery recommendations in the comments. It intrigued me, because other than a few old favorites and a handful of new discoveries via the NAL boards, I hadn't been reading much mystery at all, and it used to be what read most. So I jotted down a bunch of the most promising-sounding recommendations and bought them. This is one of them.

The story starts with three teenage girls, Perri, Josie, and Kat, locked in a school bathroom with a gun--Kat's dead; Perri has been shot in the face and is not expected to live; Josie's been shot in the foot. It appears that Perri killed Kat, then Perri and Josie struggled over the gun and Josie was shot, then Perri turned the gun on herself.

But the evidence doesn't add up: why are there bloody footprints leading away from the locked door? Where are Josie's shoes? Where are all three girls' cell phones?

The book bounces all over place and time, between different POVs, delving deep into each one, showing the development of the girls' friendship until a year earlier when there's an abrupt break between Perri and Kat. And despite the nonlinear progression of the story, it works, for the most part, because the psychological suspense is high and the characters are realistic and familiar (at least to anyone who is, has, or has been a teenage girl).

My only problems were first, that there were a few too many characters, too many POVs. I didn't see a lot of point to teacher Alexa Cunningham's POV, for example--her scenes were very in-depth, but she seemed to be only peripherally involved, if at all, in the events leading up to the shooting.

And then there was the ending. I don't want to spoil it, but it felt flat and anticlimactic. And maybe that was the point--that life doesn't always have a dramatic point. I can accept that--it just doesn't make me love the book.

Overall, I loved the feel of the book: that somewhat dream-hazed, suspenseful, close-up portraits of how 3 teenage girls ended up dead or wounded. If it had been a movie, it would be an artsy one, with lots of out-of-focus close-ups. It's different from my usual reading, which is always a good thing, and I was really immersed in it up until nearly the very end.


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